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Body of Frozen WWII Airman Found

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- The remains were found on Mount Mendel in Kings Canyon National Park. It was about a hundred feet away from the area where the WWII airman was found in 2005.

The body was recovered Monday morning by a team of archaeologists and is expected to arrive here at the coroner's office any minute. The body was discovered by a backpacker last week, who was in the backcountry doing research for a book he's writing on the missing airmen.

Park Rangers say the body was found in a rock glacier last Wednesday by a hiker in the area to research a book and a parachute was found nearby.

J.D. Swed, Chief Park Ranger, says, "While researching this book, he came across the remains of another of what appears to be an airman from the same era. There are indications it would be from the same plan."

The body was found in the same area where another body was found in 2005, later identified as Army Airman Leo Mustonen, who disappeared after a crash in November of 1942. Three others were also killed, their remains never identified.

Park officials say a below level snowpack may have contributed to the latest discovery. Debbie Brenchley, park ranger, says, "The body was actually in the rock layer, so it was actually above the ice. Which is different from the one we found in 2005 which seemed to be mostly in the ice."

The Army will now begin the process of trying to identify the airman. Carol Benson lives in Utah. Her uncle John Mortenson was one of the airmen who disappeared more than six decades ago. She says after the last discovery raised her hopes two years ago, this time she's taking a wait and see approach. "We did have anxiety because it did bring back memories. It did. But this time we don't want to dwell on this until the Army does come out with some official information."

A forensic specialist from the US Army will be flying into Fresno in the next few days to help with a preliminary examination on the body. It will then be taken to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, where DNA will be used to help identify the remains.


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